Apple announced iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 at its WWDC keynote event on June 5, 2023. The updates, which are coming as free downloads for iPhone and iPad owners, will be available in the fall and bring with them a range of new features and enhancements.
What’s Coming to iOS 17?
iOS is the operating system that powers the iPhone, with major new updates delivered each year in the fall. iOS 16 was released on September 12, 2022, so you should expect the new update to drop sometime around mid-September 2023.
Here are some of the standout features coming to the new operating system, though expect to learn about some additional “hidden” features as was the case in iOS 16.
Improvements to the Messages App
Some of the biggest improvements to iOS 17 are found in the Messages app. A new safety feature called Check In lets you keep family and friends in the loop when you’re out and about. Automatically notify contacts when you’ve safely arrived home, with alerts sent out when you’re delayed or haven’t made it. You can even choose to share battery percentage and cellular reception information.
Apple has also spent some time improving the Messages interface within a chat window. Gone is the messy row of iMessage apps in favor of a single “Plus” button, behind which all your additional sharing and interaction features are hidden. Use this button to share or take photos, start a Check In session, send Memoji, and more.
The Stickers feature has also received some enhancements, with a revised interface that keeps all your stickers in one place (regardless of where you got them from). All emoji can now be used as stickers, and subjects you have isolated from photos can be quickly turned into stickers too. Animated “Live Stickers” can be created from Live Photos you have shot.
You can add these stickers as reactions using the tapback menu and use the stickers you have collected in third-party apps too.
Finding messages is now easier, too, thanks to filters that you can apply to your in-app searches. These work a lot like search filters do within the Photos app, allowing you to narrow down your search results by doing things like filtering by contact when searching your inbox.
There are some nice quality-of-life improvements to chats too. A new “catch up” arrow takes you right to the newest message you haven’t yet read (great for busy group chats), and you can reply in-line to messages easier with a simple swipe. Audio messages you receive will now be transcribed, perfect if you’re unable to listen to them at the time. You can also see the locations of friends who have shared their position right in the conversation.
A New Journal App
If you’ve been using Notes as a personal journal of sorts, you’re in for a big upgrade. New for iOS 17 is Journal, an end-to-end encrypted journal complete with a new Journaling Suggestions API. For privacy and security purposes, the new app can be locked and uses on-device processing to enable some of its more interesting features.
Apple says that Journal is designed to help “iPhone users reflect and practice gratitude through journaling” with a dash of machine learning to help prompt you to record relevant things. On top of prompts to write your journal, you’ll also get smart suggestions based on your activities.
This can include photos you’ve shot, a trip you’ve taken, the music or podcasts you listened to, workouts you’ve completed, and anything else your iPhone might learn about you through normal use. You’ll also get writing prompts that relate to the activity, like being asked which part of a trip you enjoyed the most.
Customize How You Look When Placing a Call
iOS 17 lets you take control of how you appear when placing phone calls through the new contact posters customization. These full-screen images appear on friends’ devices when you place a call and take a lot of inspiration from the Lock Screen customization options first featured in iOS 16.
You can customize your poster just like a Lock Screen with your choice of photo, filters, typography, and a color scheme to match. The feature doesn’t just work with phone calls but also third-party VoIP apps thanks to integration with Apple’s CallKit API. The look you choose here also applies to your contact card, giving you even more control over how you appear when sharing your contact information with other users.
Live Voicemail Transcription
An impressive new feature called Voice Mail transcription is a call back to the days of tape-recorder answering machines. The feature lets you see a real-time transcription of the message as it comes in, so you can decide whether or not you want to answer the call mid-message (just like you could do in the good old days by listening to the recording as the caller left it).
The feature won’t work with numbers flagged as spammers, which is a nice touch. This builds on Apple’s already useful Voicemail Transcription feature, though support can vary depending on your carrier and location.
FaceTime Gets Audio and Video Messages, Apple TV Integration
FaceTime callers can now leave messages if the recipient is unavailable, just like they can with a regular phone call. This works for both video and audio messages, depending on the type of call placed. There are also some new reactions that you can trigger with gestures, much like the message-send effects found in Messages (including balloons, fireworks, hearts, and more).
On top of this, Apple TV 4K owners can now pass FaceTime calls to their TV, which builds on the Continuity Camera feature added in 2022’s iOS and macOS updates.
Apple Watch users will be familiar with Nightstand Mode, and now a similar feature is coming to the iPhone. Simply turn your iPhone on its side to enter StandBy View, which shows information at a glance that’s designed to be viewed at a distance.
The mode includes a range of different clock styles, which you can access by swiping up and down, or view photos from your library by swiping side to side. You can add widgets to certain clock faces to see information like the weather, a calendar, smart home controls, and widgets from third-party apps. Your iPhone will also surface useful information based on your usage patterns in this mode.
At night the screen will be dimmed and take on a red hue so that your iPhone doesn’t disrupt your sleep. Apple showed off a horizontal stand when demonstrating the feature, so expect a flurry of those to appear (likely with MagSafe charging) as iOS 17 nears release.
Apple specifically mentioned the iPhone 14 Pro and its always-on display during this segment. The addition of StandBy View could be a sign that the company is serious about rolling out always-on displays to more devices soon.
AirDrop, Apple’s wireless nearby sharing feature, gets easier with a few big improvements. The first is NameDrop, which allows two people to bring their iPhones together to automatically share contact information. The feature makes it easy to exchange phone numbers and other contact details and also works with an iPhone and an Apple Watch.
The same proximity-based AirDrop feature works with other content like photos or videos, supposedly improving local sharing between two iPhones. On top of this, AirDrop now allows you to initiate a large transfer (like a video) and step out of range, at which point the transfer will continue over the internet. If you’ve ever sat around waiting for an AirDrop transfer to finish, that’s a more than welcome improvement.
On top of AirDrop features, iOS 17 will finally let people share AirTags. The beacons previously were limited to a single user but now allow you to invite contacts to see the location of your AirTag and automatically opt-out of any warnings associated with that AirTag.
More Accurate Autocorrect
Apple was also keen to stress that it has made improvements to the underlying autocorrect model for better suggestions. Sentence-level autocorrect corrects entire sentences after you have typed them. You can tap on words to get back to the word you initially typed, which is handy when autocorrect is a little too zealous. On top of this, your iPhone can now learn profanity too.
The other big typing improvement is in-line predictions that appear as you type. These suggestions let you quickly finish sentences or phrases, and they mirror features you’ve probably already used elsewhere (Gmail’s email prediction springs to mind).
Offline Maps, Personal Voice, and More
If you’re a fan of offline mapping and navigation on your iPhone, you’ll be pleased to see that Apple has finally added the feature to its in-built Apple Maps app. Select an area, download it, and access it even when you don’t have internet access. This is handy since Maps is home to some handy features, like the ability to find where your car is parked.
Billed as an accessibility feature, Personal Voice is aimed at individuals at risk of losing their speaking ability. By training iOS 17, you can create a replica of your voice that can speak on your behalf in around an hour.
What’s Coming to iPadOS 17?
iPadOS is a spin-off of the operating system that powers the iPhone, with tablet-specific features and enhancements. iPadOS can lag the iOS release, as was the case with iPadOS 16 last year, which Apple decided to delay.
Let’s take a look at some of the big new features coming to your Apple tablet later in the year.
Interactive Widgets for the Home Screen
The iPad has had Home Screen widgets for a while, but in iPadOS 17 they get a lot more interactive. You can now do things within widgets that don’t require you to open a companion app. This includes things like checking off reminders, controlling your smart home devices, or accessing features within third-party apps since they, too, can take advantage of improved widgets.
A More Useful Customizable Lock Screen
iPadOS adds a customizable Lock Screen, just like you’ll find on the iPhone. The release includes some built-in wallpapers, like a new astronomy set that lets you customize which celestial body you want to see. You can, of course, use your own photos, and this includes Live Photos which Apple enhances with a slow-motion effect that interpolates additional frames.
Just like the iPhone, you can set your typeface, add filters, and define a color scheme. Live Activities are another Lock Screen improvement, which are essentially fancier notifications that show up-to-date information. See flight information, sports scores, food delivery status, timers, and more.
Apple Health Comes to iPad
It’s odd that it’s taken Apple so long to add a Health app to the iPad, but the feature is official as of iPadOS 17. Health syncs securely with your iPhone, allowing you to record and browse the information you have added or gathered from wearables like the Apple Watch.
Health features the same useful medication reminders, the ability to share and export certain information to pass along to health professionals, and support for third-party apps that you have granted access to Health for monitoring trends and progress.
Better PDF Support
Do you use your iPad to fill out forms? iPadOS 17 improves the PDF experience by using machine learning to recognize fields, even if they’re not properly defined within the body of the PDF. You can then use autofill to fill out your contact information automatically, saving you time.
The improvements also work with documents you have scanned in Notes, as well as Apple Mail’s “Reply Back” in-line annotation feature.
Further improvements to how Notes handles PDFs include improved display and controls for flicking between pages and storing multiple PDFs in a single note. Annotations you add now work with Live Collaboration features, and Apple even showed two people annotating the same note in real-time using two separate iPads.
Tweaks to Stage Manager
Stage Manager is the multitasking feature that Apple added to iPadOS 16. In iPadOS 17, Apple is making tweaks to the feature, which gives you more control over the size and position of windows and the ability to use the camera on an external display for FaceTime and video calls (where available).
Many of the iOS 17 Features Too
iPadOS is based on iOS, so it makes sense that many of the improvements Apple has made to the iPhone will make it to the iPad too. Expect to see features like FaceTime messages, better predictive text and autocorrect, AirDrop enhancements, and offline Apple Maps support added to the iPad too.
Coming Fall 2023
One of the perks of owning an iPhone or iPad is that Apple meaningfully improves the experience once per year. On top of brand-new features, expect to see tweaks and updates to your existing apps. The company often makes improvements behind the scenes to improve the performance, stability, and performance of apps like Safari and Mail.